One wants to stay in power for another three years. The other wants to take power. One is very (somewhat artificially)popular with mainstream New Zealanders. The other is languishing on the Opposition benches. Both for diametrically different reasons need to lift their game substantially in the next 18 months.
To get a fourth term in office in peacetime New Zealand is virtually unprecedented and National know it. But with the absence of a competent opposition unless one counts New Zealand First and the Greens, the spectre of National getting a fourth term is slowly growing on the horizon. But two major questions are to be asked:
- is it making the right moves to ensure a fourth term;
- and are those moves happening fast enough
National has enjoyed the confidence of the business community and in particular the farming sector as it has sought to navigate through a surprisingly tricky obstacle course of national and international events and circumstances. It has shown leadership in challenging times that have yet to confront a Labour Government since the 21st Century started. But it has shown an arrogant disregard for personal integrity amongst its Members of Parliament. It has run roughshod over human rights and democratic practices held dear by many including the author. How much longer New Zealand will tolerate this for I do not know.
As for those two questions, I do not think so on either account. When I look there appears to be no distinct Labour Party challenge.
But some of Labours allies are showing signs of potential. Is New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters willing to put aside his refusal to work with the Greens, and make Black-Green 2017 more than just a New Zealand First Youth Wing concept? It is true that New Zealand First and the Greens are ideologically quite different beasts. One is part of a much larger international movement for environmentally sound policies and a rainbow future. The other is a centrist-nationalist party with a core of senior citizens. However, their common ground extends to trade, human rights, science and democracy. Both have supported causes such as the anti-Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement movement. Both want more effort by the Government directly investing in New Zealand job creation. With some co-operation, New Zealand First and the Greens could become a bloc worth watching.
As for Labour, like National on the other side of the House of Representatives, the clock is ticking. Labour appear to be deeply divided between their more conservative and their more socialist Members of Parliament. Their on going lack of unity is causing Prime Minister John Key and his National Party colleagues no small amount of hilarity. Andrew Little comes across as lacking charisma, in contrast with the Prime Minister’s sunny every man persona. And worse still, a combination of a lack of policy that the public really like and a similar lack of fresh Members of Parliament with new ideas and talents make Labour look decidedly worn.
The stakes are high. For National, this is a chance at history. It is an unpredecented extra chance for Prime Minister John Key to do something that will be remembered for generations – hopefully for the right reasons. For Labour this is about avoiding the political equivalent to football’s relegation. Because that is what faces Labour if it does not win this election or at least do well enough that the Black-Green bloc can help it form a Government.
Or will New Zealanders suffer a major attack of apathy and just not bother voting?